Wine Culture Magazine

How the somms at JOEY, Cactus Club and Earls are refining the palates of a whole new demographic

For many people, chain restaurants offer their first taste of wine—and first sip of wine education. Getty Images/macarosha photo

There was a time when we might have raised an eyebrow at a top sommelier giving up the white-tablecloth life for a gig at a chain restaurant. Not any more.

Super somms like Sebastien Le Goff (at Cactus Club), David Stansfield (Earls) and Jason Yamasaki (JOEY) are in an enviable position. Not only can they rely on their bosses’ deep pockets, they have the power to influence thousands and thousands of people outside the usual wine community, both consumers and staff.

Education is a big part of what they do. They are training servers how to understand wine, how to describe it to guests and how to pour it properly. They are also training consumers to broaden their palates and enjoy exciting new wines, including sometimes challenging styles and varieties. Read on to take a look at how they’re pulling it off:

Training is key for Jason Yamasaki at JOEY
Taking a risk on natural wines pays off for Earls’ David Stansfield
At Cactus Club, Sebastien Le Goff makes the elevated approachable

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